The Bronx is an interesting historical cocktail. While it’s not nearly as famous as its two close relatives, the Manhattan or the Martini, it does deserve a place in the cocktail hall of fame along with them for its unique balanced of sweet, tart, botanical and boozy.
Like many pre-prohibition cocktails, the origin of the Bronx is up for debate. However, this debate is less fiery than others with the generally accepted story attributing its creation to one Johnny Solon (also spelled Solan), a bartender at the famous Astoria-Waldorf Hotel in New York. Reportedly, Solon created it sometime in the early 1900s, though an accurate date is unknown. According to bartender legend Gary Regan, Solon named it the Bronx after visiting the Bronx Zoo, which opened in 1899. Cocktail historian David Wondrich, in his book “Imbibe,” reports some conflicting origins, including two bartenders in the Bronx itself who have been attributed with its creation.
The drink is, essentially, a Perfect Martini (that is, a Martini that sees equal parts sweet and dry vermouth included) with a bit of orange juice and some orange bitters. This particular recipe is perhaps why the drink hasn’t enjoyed the robust legacy of its similarly New York burrough-named whiskey counterpart, the Manhattan. Orange juice is not nearly as popular an ingredient in cocktails as lime, lemon or even grapefruit juice, lacking the intense, concentrated bite of those other citrus fruits. This leads to the Bronx being considered anemic at times, especially compared to the potent elixir of whiskey and vermouth, or the elegance of the Martini’s proportions. According to Wondrich, it was once criticized in a 1913 play, where a character was referred to as being “as weak as a Bronx Cocktail.”
However, it has its fans. Unlike the Martini or Manhattan, the addition of orange juice gives this gin drink a refreshing, summertime quality. It also means it’s far less out of place at the brunch table than other spirit-forward drinks. In fact, for some it could replace the Mimosa, at least to mix things up from time to time.
The Bronx is a drink that relies heavily on the quality of its ingredients. Using a nice, freshly squeezed orange for juice will result in a brighter, fresher drink than using store-bought orange juice (especially if it’s from concentrate). Likewise, a bottom shelf gin will make a mediocre version of the Bronx while citrus-forward gins like Tanqueray No. 10 or Hendrick’s will magnify the bright and quenching aspect of the cocktail.
- 2 ounces gin
- 1/4 ounce dry vermouth
- 1/4 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 ounce fresh orange juice
- 1 dash orange bitters (optional)
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice.
Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.